Santa Clara Mag Blog
Santa Clara Magazine's blog, updated whenever the writing goblin visits the editorial staff of the magazine.
Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012
Kick off the new year with a literary evening in Lafayette, Calif: Writer Ron Hansen M.A. '95 will be at the Lafayette Library & Learning Center on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. He'll be talking about the writing life—and work that's taken him from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to Mariette in Ecstasy and, most recently, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion.
Hansen is the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Professor of Arts & Humanities at SCU, the author of 10 books, and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He's also the literary editor for Santa Clara Magazine.
Read the story behind A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion in the Summer 2011 edition of SCM.
Friday, Oct. 28, 2011
For those who love to dine (or even live to dine) writer Adam Gopnik has served up a tasty multicourse historical exploration with his latest book, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food. And he'll be in Palo Alto on Nov. 1, for a program hosted by The Commonwealth Club–Silicon Valley at the Cubberley Community Center. Details and tix here.
Your humble SCM editor is handling the Q&A. Come and ask what's on your mind (or your stomach) in person. Can't make it? Email us.
Beyond the food front: In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Gopnik has a tribute to that wonderful children's novel of yore, The Phantom Tollbooth. I'm looking forward to talking with him about that gem.
Steven Boyd Saum
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011When The Way opens, the gruff Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) is driving his adult son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) to the airport and tells him: "My life here may not seem like much to you, but it's the life I choose.""You don't choose a life, Dad," his son responds, as if trying to forgive him for their estranged past. "You live one."Thus begins a wonderful, quiet little movie directed by Estevez and starring his father. It's about taking a journey, vigorously walking a road toward an ill-understood destination.And it travels a path familiar to readers of Santa Clara Magazine. In the essay “Pilgrimage” (SCM Summer 2010), Martha E. Stortz describes her journey along the Camino and the lessons learned: about big questions, saints, direction, and feet.
"You do walk your own Camino; you can’t walk someone else’s,” Stortz writes. “Nor can you let anyone else set your pace, carry your pack, or deal with your demons."As for the Sheen/Estevez journey: Sheen’s Tom, a grouchy, golfing ophthalmologist in Ventura, Calif., learns of Daniel's death in Europe in the film's first minutes. Daniel has been killed in a storm after traversing only one leg of a 500-mile pilgrimage through the Pyrenees along St. James' Way. A grief-stricken Tom decides to abandon his former life after receiving Daniel's ashes. Carrying the remains of his son in a silver box, Tom vows, "We will walk the way together."Tom learns Stortz's lesson quickly. Wishing only to wallow silently in his grief, he soon has companions on his journey. As the box containing his son’s remains is lost first to a river, later to a thief, Tom's fellow pilgrims bring him, in turns, misery, understanding, and joy.—John Deever
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011
Over the last week or so the Silicon Valley Business Journal has polled readers on what things best symbolizes Silicon Valley: Netflix or Tivo? The Google campus or eBay HQ?
On Tuesday the universities squared off, SCU vs. Stanford. Imagine the Cardinal's surprise when our plucky Broncos took the lead. Unfortunately, like that old saying goes: When the going gets tough, the tough turn to automated voting bots.
We'll let Cromwell Schubarth at the Journal's BizBlog take it from here:
Santa Clara had a comfortable lead until late Tuesday afternoon when the programmed voting for Stanford began. When the plug was pulled, it had built up a 99 percent to 1 percent lead with nearly 200,000 votes cast.
Much as we would like to believe our challenge has generated that kind of traffic, those votes were generated by only about 5,000 visits to the polling site.
A winner will be declared by the time the next round begins in September, perhaps after a call to the Markulla Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara ...
Monday, Nov. 15, 2010
For the first time in two weeks I am able to comfortably lounge in the backseat of my dad's Honda Civic. Cyclists appear from nowhere, but I don’t shriek, “Watch out, you'll hit him!” I do not curse the motorcyclists. I turn a blind eye toward the rickshaws. Cars drive so close alongside ours that I can roll down my window and touch them without having to ever so slightly stretch my arm. None of this makes my heart pound with terror.It’s taken awhile, but I have learned how to navigate the streets of my hometown again, though they’re not at all the same streets I once plied on my scooter or drove in my mother’s car. The Lucknow I knew no longer exists. In eight years, this peaceful Nawabi town has become a metro-wannabe bursting at its seams. It's only a matter of time before it explodes.In the meantime, the “relax, this is India” attitude has rubbed on me. The roads may have come to a standstill, but life goes on. Though perhaps not as expected.Yesterday we were stuck in a traffic jam for an hour, though I weathered the experience without cringing. I made light of the fact that we headed out at 4 p.m. and were back home at 5:30 p.m. without having reached the store we were headed to. The hour and a half in between was spent stuck in a jam on a side road (ironically, we avoided the main thoroughfare for fear of being stuck in a jam), taking a U-turn after three failed attempts, getting stuck in another jam, using an alternate and much longer route to return home (owing to a third traffic jam on the main road), getting stuck in a Saturday bazaar on the street when taking a U-turn again, and lots and lots of high-pitched arguments between drivers and street vendors.On another shopping expedition last evening (yes, we are resilient), I was almost spat on, my posterior was attacked by a cow's snout, and my arm was swatted by another cow's tail. On foot, I had to push my shoulders past fellow pedestrians in an attempt to keep up with my parents -- who, somehow, sashayed effortlessly through the traffic jam, avoiding vehicles, people, and cow dung.While everyone continues to acknowledge, and be aggravated by, the traffic issues, it doesn't stop them from adding to the street chaos. And whether people buy cars out of necessity or as a status symbol, more and more are being added to Lucknow's streets every day.The result: With 10 lakh registered vehicles on the roads (one lakh is equal to 10,000, so that means 1 million cars) and 200 more being added every day; with 300 traffic personnel on the streets instead of the required 6,000; with an average of two vehicles per home in multi-storeyed apartment complexes mushrooming throughout the city; with roads being dug everywhere and street side parking constricting already narrow roads; with cyclists, pedestrians, and animals waltzing willy nilly on the streets; with everyone wanting to squeeze in their foot, hoof, or vehicle into any spot they can, the streets in Lucknow city are sheer anarchy.According to an August 2010 report in India Today: “Compared to the mollusc, our cities have super speed records -- Bangalore's peak traffic speed is 18 kmph, while Delhi's and Mumbai's are 16 kmph. Indian thoroughfares host over 48 modes of transport, with 40 per cent of commercial vehicles plying illegally. Forty-one percent of streets are taken up by parking. Most Indians drive 10 km on an average daily; one in four spending over 90 minutes every day; 32 percent of the country's vehicles move on urban roads. India has 50 million two-wheelers and rising. Despite this, national car sales have grown by 38 percent; 2009–10 was the pinnacle with 1.95 million cars sold. The cheapest car in India is about 12 times the annual per capita income of a citizen, while in the U.S. it is about one-third the average income. Urban India's love affair with the automobile is scandalous: the country's five mega metros have over 40 lakh cars out of a total vehicular population of 10 crore” -- that’s 100 million – “its auto market growing by 26 percent last year. India is paralysed by its traffic."
I couldn’t agree more. And yet, when the chaotic movement froze and we found ourselves stopped dead on the road, my parents' remained relatively calm. The car's engine was turned off, their necks were craned, they talked about daily hassles like these in subdued tones. As soon as the rickshaw in front moved half a foot, they got excited at the prospect of reaching their destination.
Mansi Bhatia, University Writer/Editor
Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010
It’s a between time in Ukraine—a country whose name itself means Borderland. Traveling here at the beginning of November, one has the sense of things being on edge once again; there’s not a sense of nervousness exactly, but more a sense of things slipping from golden autumn into gray winter, a time to hunker down. The days are still warm but they are short and there are still weeks that will grow shorter.
It’s a time I know well. I spent a few years in the 1990s in this country, teaching at a university in western Ukraine as a Peace Corps volunteer and then directing the Fulbright program and other academic exchanges for the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. In Ukrainian, the name of this month is Listopad, which translates as leaves fall. Indeed they do. Sometimes hope does, too.
Across the country (except for in Kyiv, which held them two years ago), local elections were held on October 31. The result? The ruling Party of Regions, headed by President Viktor Yanukovych, seems to have consolidated power further. That wasn’t a great surprise. Is it a good thing? As in much of politics, that depends on where you stand.
Yanokovych was the candidate defeated in the Orange Revolution six years ago. I came back to Ukraine for the first time in nearly a decade to serve as an election observer during that tumultuous time. A feeling of optimism swept much of the country like a tidal wave.
(Full disclosure re. my revolutionary sympathies: Sashko Polozhynsky, a Ukrainian student I knew from my days a Peace Corps volunteer, had since become a major pop star, fronting the Ukrainian band Tartak. They headlined the victory concert in Independence Square the night after the election in 2004 when the Orange coalition of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko triumphed. Like Sashko, I was rooting for the orange wave of change. So was another former student of mine, Roman, but even before the election, he sagely quoted to me a Ukrainian proverb: “We wanted better, but it turned out the way it always does.” Indeed it did.)
The Orange coalition floundered far sooner than it should have. Blame infighting and corruption, in part. The once-vanquished Yanukovych was elected president in February. He’s promised stability and now, after Sunday’s election, further economic reform. This cheers the folks at the Wall Street Journal, who await a wave of massive liberalization. I’m more of a skeptic. I recall vividly that, back in 1994, the newly-elected Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma warmed the hearts of folks in Europe and the U.S. by talking the talk of economic reform. What Ukraine got instead was entrenched corruption, a blurring of the line where organized crime ended and government began, and a journalist’s headless body found in the woods.
It helps to remember at times like this that the national anthem of this country is “Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet.” As I write this, I’m in an apartment on Lenin Avenue in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. I spent the day with doctors at an orphanage, Baby House No. 1, which some faculty and graduates of Santa Clara have worked with in recent years on a number of projects regarding the care of orphans and children with special needs. It’s heartbreaking, soul-stirring work. And as in politics, there is much reform needed in medicine here.
Kharkiv boasts the largest plaza in Europe, with a statue of Lenin, arm outstretched, commanding the center. Nearby is another square, with another statue, this one of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. At the statues feet are figures emblematic of the oppressed peoples of Ukraine. Those are some of their faces in the photograph above. There’s no mistaking the fierce dignity.
This weekend brings the 113th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, but that’s no longer a holiday in Ukraine. Halloween wasn’t a holiday, either, but in Kiev that didn’t stop throngs of teenagers from roaming the main boulevard, Khreschatik, some wearing little red horns and face paint.
Steven Boyd Saum, Editor, Santa Clara Magazine
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010
Here in the Czech lands the hillsides are wearing their riotous autumnal colors: from Petrín Hill overlooking the Vltava River in Prague to the rocky Moravian Highlands, the landscapes wear gold and red and orange and yellow and brown and the last of the brilliant green of summer.
Some of the cornfields have been plowed under and the celebrations of young wine (sweet as apple cider, if not sophisticated in flavor) and local elections (results not earth-shattering, but the Czechs have a stable government and a strong currency), and it’s the eve of a holiday celebrating nation that no longer exists.
An independent Czechoslovakia came into being on October 28, 1918, wedding two regions into an independent nation. That nation ceased to exist on January 1, 1993. But the holiday persists.
Some of my Czech friends find the celebration absurd; but having lived and worked in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, I’m among those who hold a special reverence for the fact that the little country of Czechoslovakia was formed at all—and then tragically dismembered at Munich in 1938, with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning home and saying, “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”
That country is not so far away any more. (Not that it was far away then; Prague is closer to London than Vienna is.) But historical memory has a way of receding so quickly.
Some of the students at Santa Clara were born after the Velvet Revolution brought down the Communist government here. Why does that matter?
As I write this note, I’m actually in Brno (second-biggest city in the Czech Republic, capital of Moravia, with a tiny fraction of the tourists that Prague has). Our friends here who lived through the heady days of the autumn of ’89 long ago pointed out that when the student protest began, joining them were people of their grandparents’ generation—those old enough to have lived under a democratic government and remember what was possible.
About the photo: Nestled in the Czech Republic is the Klementinum, a complex of buildings historical in its Baroque architecture as well as in its missionary past. It was built by the Jesuits at the foot of the Charles Bridge in Prague over the course of several hundred years. Formerly a Jesuit college, this complex is now part of Charles University.